Mary Louise’s teeth are coming for us all in Big Little Lies. Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgård) mother, played in an increasingly unsettling manner by Meryl Streep, is hitting her stride in episode 3, “The End of the World.” She finds her long-lost grandson Ziggy (Iain Armitage), she threatens Celeste (Nicole Kidman), and she forms a seedy alliance with Detective Adrienne Quinlan (Merrin Dungey).
As predicted at the end of episode 2, “Tell-Tale Heart,” the grandmas of Monterey are shaking things up (I am manifesting that we one day get to meet the woman that raised Renata Klein, played by Laura Dern because I can only imagine the showdown between her and Mary Louise). Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) mom, Elizabeth (Crystal Fox), is still in town and haunting her daughter. Bonnie isn’t yet ready to process what she did, and keeps getting drawn back to the beach to stare melancholically at the waves. My wildcard theory for the season is that someone is going to die in that water. I really, really hope and think it isn’t Bonnie, but there’s a weird energy swirling around her that even the densest man on the West Coast, Nathan (James Tupper), can feel. Plus, an unexpected water death would play into this episode’s newest plot line: climate change!
Yes, the second-grade class is taking on global warming and it’s not going well — especially for Amabella (Ivy George), who is well aware that her mom’s searing rage could melt ice caps, but had no idea that actual icebergs are disappearing.
In tonight’s episode, new families are forcibly formed when Mary Louise hijacks Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) afternoon to meet Ziggy, while others are torn apart, as Ed (Adam Scott) doubles down on icing out Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) after learning about all her big...little...lies.
Renata is having a bad week. Her husband, Gordon Klein (Jeffrey Nordling), has single-handedly ruined tracksuits, and he also supremely screwed over their family money. But, even worse, he giving Amabella a complex. After fainting at school from an anxiety attack, a family therapist comes over to the Klein residence dressed as Little Bo Peep (imagine being this rich). Miss Bo Peep gets Amabella to open up about her anxieties; she’s nervous about climate change, her father’s impending prison sentence, and her mother’s overall unhappiness.
Wait, did I just write climate change? Yes. This 8-year-old is worried about the end of the world (hence the episode title), while her parents are worried about the end of their American Express Black Card membership. It’s a sobering moment when the whole Klein family comes together and remembers that all they need is love to conquer their issues with materialisms. I’m kidding, of course Renata goes full mommy monster and trashes the school principal and the new teacher for scarring her daughter. “I will be rich again,” she tells him. “I will rise up, and I will buy a fucking polar bear for every kid in this school. Then I will squish you like the bug that you are.”
She also decides that the best course of action is to throw her daughter a blow out birthday party in which “we’re sparing no cost, she’s unhappy” to make Amabella forget all her global warming woes.
Who is Celeste fucking? Don’t tell me “no one since Perry died” because that is not true. At the beginning of episode 2, we see a blurry flashback of her with a mysterious man who has a back tattoo (it’s not not Ben Affleck), and in episode 3 we see another flash of her being while she’s with a man who does not look like Perry. This man has darker hair, and these memories feel less threatening than her others with Perry.
But, until we figure that out, we can concretely say who is fucking Celeste over, and that would be Mary Louise. She’s been slowly and purposefully building a case against Celeste since living in her home with the kids. She’s seen Celeste get physical with one of the twins, she’s seen her drive a car off the road while on Ambien, and she’s heard the stories about her son’s violence from Celeste’s perspective — stories she doesn’t believe. All that is left for her to do is to take her wealth of information to the police and, by the end of the episode, she does just that.
The drama with Mary Louise is exciting and nerve wracking, especially when Celeste tells her to get out of her house after she finds Mary Louise snooping in her bedroom. But the real revelation occurs when Dr. Amanda Reisman (Robin Weigert) tells her that she is like a war veteran in her inability to acclimate to life without Perry; Celeste misses life on the battlefield. Dr. Reisman points to the self-inflicted bruises on Celeste’s wrists to prove her point. “You crave war,” she tells her.
Madeline Martha Mackenzie
It’s not right to say that Madeline’s public breakdown at the elementary school is funny, but it was a little funny. She is sinking under the pressure of her frayed relationship with Ed after he finds out that she slept with the theater teacher. That mixed with the growing disconnect between her and her two daughters, has our resident perky blonde doing not well, emotionally. By continuously lying to her husband, she has only proven Mary Louise’s rude adage true (“I find short people to be untrustworthy”). We find out that Ed and Madeline are going to couples therapy, at Madeline’s request, and it’s the same damn therapist Celeste goes to which seems…complicated. After therapy, Madeline tells Celeste about her daddy issues — she once walked in on her dad cheating on her mom and she thinks it could contribute to her own infidelity.
To make matters worse, Ed is finding comfort in his blossoming friendship with Bonnie. It’s easy to forget that at the beginning of the first season, Madeline and Bonnie were fraught. Madeline has no idea that the coffee date was the brainchild of her ex, Nathan, but it clearly irks her. Of course, she can’t say anything because she’s the one in the dog house, spending her evenings staring into the dark abyss of the Pacific Ocean à la Bonnie.
Everyone’s so confident that Ed won’t leave her. But...she has a lot to prove.
Our lovable surfer boy Corey (Douglas Smith) is courting sweet Jane, and respecting her wishes to keep the relationship moving at a pace that is comfortable for her. She has not told him about Perry, or really anything else personal about herself, but she does introduce him to Ziggy.
And while Jane can keep Corey at arm’s length until she’s ready to do more than slow dance under the stars, she can’t ward off Mary Louise’s persistent come-ons. We don’t know what Mary Louise’s former career was, but I feel like she was a private detective based on her knack for snooping. Jane denies Mary Louise’s request for a paternity test, but does humor her with a coffee date. During it, we see a photo of Raymond, Perry’s late brother, who looks uncannily similar to Ziggy. Mary Louise is somehow able to twist the conversation into a defense of Perry’s temperament, to Jane’s shock.
There’s no way these two women will ever be anything but hostile. At least Celeste and Jane get along.
Bonnie’s mom is still in town, and her presence triggers a memory for Bonnie that only supports my “someone will drown” theory. In it, she’s a young girl, about the same age as Skye (Chloe Coleman). She’s in a pool, and her mom is teaching her how to swim. “You have to be able to hold your breath baby,” she tells her. “We have to hold our heads underwater so that if something happens we don’t drown, baby.” As soon as young Bonnie protests, her mom aggressively dunks her head into the water. It’s jarring, would be terrifying to witness, and must have been traumatic to experience. While Bonnie is having this vision, she is walking into the ocean. It feels like another of those dark thoughts that Jane used to have on her runs, when she’d imagine jumping off a cliff into the waves. Still, it’s unclear if Bonnie ever learned to hold her head underwater.
“Nathan has no idea who I am,” she says to Jane later in the episode and that’s the most honest statement we’ve heard from Bonnie this season (I told you, these two make a good pair), when she’s back at the beach AGAIN. Even though she’s still running from Nathan and whatever emotional baggage her mom brought to Monterey with her, at least she is able to confide in Jane and Ed.
Let’s do a quick “Which husband is suspicious that something happened about 12 months ago?”
Nathan is aware, thanks to Bonnie’s mom pointing it out.
Ed’s aware, thanks to Madeline’s lies.
And now Gordon’s onto Renata, telling her that her guard rails are up to her ears.
Jane doesn’t have a husband to be suspicious but Corey did tell her that she is part of the fabled “Monterey Five,” so he knows something about what allegedly went down.
And finally, Celeste — obviously she has no husband anymore, but she does have a snoopy and suspicious mother-in-law, which is definitely worse.
So that’s...everyone. Hm.
-What’s The Charlotte’s Web connection from that school scene? That lying is okay sometimes, if it protects someone you care about?
-Principal Warren Nippal (P.J. Harvey ) calling Renata the Medusa of Monterey is incredible. And then Mary Louise’s face after overhearing Renata call him a “puss fuck”? Speechless.
-It’s kind of nice how sweet Abigail (Kathryn Newton) is being to her mother in this time of need. I think she’s just excited for the distraction from her college application.
-I’m scared of Mary Louise.